Doing Good Better

Doing Good Better - William MacAskill

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Many of us have given money to charity before. But if you’re like me it was probably for a friend’s fundraiser and considering the effectiveness of the charity was the last thing on your mind. This book introduces the concept of thinking analytically about our charitable giving to help us “Do Good Better”.

The book covers a whole range of issues. Some developing world charities can be orders of magnitude more effective than local charities due to the drastic cost differences, often improving 10x the lives that could be improved for the same cost back home. Rating charities by operational effectiveness (scientific studies) instead of just operational efficiency (% of money spent on overheads). “Earning to give” vs working in a charity. Our biases that result in disaster relief being drastically overfunded to common health issues that kill far more people.

For me, however, the most important point was on giving now vs. giving later. I had planned to save now and donate later but a few arguments convinced me otherwise.

  • Saving lives won’t get cheaper - As we eradicate diseases across the world saving lives will cost more and outpace investments, so your money will go further today.
  • Hold yourself accountable today – We say we’ll donate in the future, but will we? Starting small today aligns your actions with your views and helps confirm we are the type of person who gives, giving us something to build on in future.

From reading this book I’ve set up a monthly donation to GiveDirectly, one of the charities recommended by Effective Altruism and GiveWell. I hope sharing this helps others think about it too.